16 February 2024

Robot takes city centre's temperature to tackle urban heat effect

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation
MaRTy on the job in Civic

MaRTy on the job in Civic, collecting temperature data to help the City Renewal Authority plan for cooler places. Photos: City Renewal Authority.

A robot called MaRTy is helping the City Renewal Authority identify the city’s hot spots, and no they’re not cool places to hang out.

The Authority wants to know where the summer heat is felt in the city, which can make its outdoor places decidedly uncool, and uncomfortable.

MaRTy, the only heat-monitoring tool of its kind in Australia, is rolling round seven sites across the city and Dickson shops, measuring outdoor heat as part of a thermal comfort study.

The study is being led by Mosaic Insights and the Climate-Resilient Cities Lab at the University of New South Wales, who are experts in green infrastructure planning and urban climate science.

READ ALSO Inquiry reveals why Australia is stuck in a rut when it comes to extreme weather’s toll on roads

The Authority’s Executive Branch Manager of Design and Place Strategy, Lucy Wilson, said this study would help the Authority plan for outdoor spaces in the City Centre that were cool and pleasant for residents, workers and visitors.

“The City Renewal Authority is committed to invigorating and revitalising the City Centre, but it is important to ensure that new developments also provide comfortable outdoor spaces,” Ms Wilson said.

“This study will help us understand the current temperatures and heat conditions in locations across the City Centre.”

Ms Wilson said MaRTy was taking the city’s temperature in February because this was the time of year that people’s outdoor comfort was most affected by hot conditions.

Heat map

Cool science: A heat map generated from data collected by MaRTy.

The knowledge MaRTy gathered would contribute to climate-wise design of places and buildings to help reduce the urban heat impact.

“We will also be able to measure improvements in outdoor thermal comfort over time,” she said.

The MaRTy technology was developed in 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona, and the name refers to ‘mean radiant temperature’.

MaRTy simulates the way the human body experiences heat in cities and measures air temperature, humidity, wind speed, and solar radiation.

Dr Negin Nazarian from UNSW said this was becoming increasingly important as the climate warmed.

“The urban heat island effect is the change brought about through urbanisation, buildings, roads and infrastructure,” he said. “When combined with hotter average temperatures through climate change, it is increasingly important to use design strategies to reduce the urban heat effect.

“In urban environments, radiation and heat reach us from direct sunlight but reflected sunlight also reaches us from surfaces.

“Many built materials such as bricks, asphalt and concrete amplify the strength of reflected heat from the sun while features like shade, greenery and water bodies can reduce heat.”

READ ALSO Customers invited to have their say on plans to deliver a modernised Australia Post

Mosaic Insights General Manager Jan Orton praised the Authority for “delivering important data-driven urban and landscape upgrades”.

“It is critical that we use data and evidence to inform how our cities and landscapes are designed so they can be as cool as possible and can function into the future in a climate changed world,” she said.

The Authority plans to repeat this analysis in the coming years.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

The photo in this article showing the machine is under heavy shade with large leafy deciduous trees, so could suggest a cool city. Hopefully locations are sufficiently varied to show the differences in different place.

With only one machine it is not possible to standardise measurements with all being taken at the same time of day on the same day with the same weather conditions, so comparisons will not be scientifically sound. Is this so this dodgy government can spin the results to suit their objectives?

thoughtsonthesubject12:21 pm 19 Feb 24

The technology to measure temperature and produce ‘Heat Maps’ has obviously been available for a very long time. In 2017 the Greens requested a Heat Map for Canberra from CSIRO which showed that the new tree-less suburbs and shopping centers had already at that time up to 10 degrees higher temperatures due to the so-called Urban Island Heat effect. That means when El Nino comes back and we have 40-degree temperatures again, these areas will suffer from 50 degrees, life-threatening for many. You would have thought our Labor/Greens government would have ordered new temperature maps before concreting in Civic and other areas in Canberra.

Marty technology invented in Arizona in 2016 and not used in any other Australian city.

Does that mean it doesn’t actually work?

HiddenDragon7:50 pm 18 Feb 24

The city’s homeless could probably provide much the same information, without all the intellectualised palaver and jargon, in return for the price of a decent meal.

Capital Retro6:51 pm 18 Feb 24

Everything the ACT government is involved in has to be “highly technical” to have any cred.

As most of the comments already posted have pointed out the folly of these expensive gadgets no further comment is really needed.

All they have to do is research how planning and building was done 100years ago.

William Newby3:22 am 18 Feb 24

What does “ MaRTy” mean?
I don’t need a PhD and some expensive robot to tell me that Labor’s urban infill plans involve tearing down single unit dwellings with trees and lawn, only to replace them with lots of cement boxes, insufficient parking, and no requirement to replant what was lost.
Our urban forrest intentions have failed, our green canopy is actually in decline here in the ACT and the Greens that ought to be worried about this are off worrying about drug laws, youth crime, and bashing up landlords.

Glass and metal and concrete retain heat. Andy Barr needs money for his tram set so he needs to sell land and his union mates need to keep building. Canberra, I loved you once.

Capital Retro9:39 pm 19 Feb 24

I hope his tram rails buckle and the power lines sag.

Ron Crowther3:31 pm 17 Feb 24

It is so much easier, cheaper and more effective to have many fixed thermometers broadcasting to an app that collates all the data. Did they have a robot someone built and didn’t know what to do with it?

Absolutely! And it would standardise the information as all sites could be measured at the same time, allowing valid comparisons between different locations. That would be much more scientifically sound than a machine that goes from one place to another on different days with different weather at different times of day. Of course, it wouldn’t allow the ACT government to so easily spin the results to suit them.

ChrisinTurner2:21 pm 17 Feb 24

Replacing the street trees you removed in Cooyong Street, Civic would help.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.